Investment Notes: HYPR
We are excited to have announced Blackbird has led an equity financing of US$5.5M in HYPERLABS Inc., a stealth-mode San Francisco based robotics startup. Who is behind it? Tim Kentley-Klay, the co-founder of Zoox, one of our most memorable investments here at Blackbird.
Read on to learn why it is great to have Tim back in the Blackbird family, and a bit about what he’s building at HYPR.
Robotaxi programs have collectively spent tens of billions of dollars before commercial launch.
The program costs are a function of their approach: expensive sensors and compute (and a huge battery onboard the vehicle to accommodate the processing), combined with a vast array of custom-built models (built by expensive Bay Area software engineers) for different traffic scenarios in urban environments.
The opulent spending makes sense in the context of the prize: urban passenger transportation. However, the approach has taken longer than first thought and remains tethered to specific environments (i.e. the learnings in Phoenix don’t apply to San Francisco).
What if there were a radically different approach? What if there were an end-to-end approach, where the software trained itself, developed its own internal models of the world and did it all on the most modest of hardware?
You likely will have read about the feats of Deepmind, a division of Google, and the prowess they have displayed in playing complex computer games like Go or Starcraft.
Deepmind takes a completely generalised approach to AI without brittle human-coded frameworks: with reinforcement learning, the software essentially writes itself.
If you can spare 30 mins, you should watch this presentation from Sergey Levine (the king of reinforcement learning).
Reinforcement learning is a fresh approach that has a chance to be a massive leap forward in AI, playing a part in the development of ‘cheap’ robots like sidewalk delivery that can’t afford the GPUs or the big batteries required to power them.
We’re delighted to be reunited in business with Tim Kentley-Klay. Tim was the co-founder of Zoox (one of the OG investments from the 2012 LP) and, in many ways, played a large role in shaping the philosophy of Blackbird through his ambition and achievements.
HYPR has big ambitions and we are excited to see them come to life in the years ahead.
If you have any questions or comments, let me know and I welcome them, as always!
Niki, on behalf of Blackbird